O'Sullivan to resume title challenge

Ronnie O’Sullivan returns to the Crucible today after a week in which many pretenders to his crown have fallen at the first hurdle.

Ronnie O’Sullivan returns to the Crucible today after a week in which many pretenders to his crown have fallen at the first hurdle.

The defending champion tackles Ali Carter, the man he beat in last year’s final, in the second round of the Betfair World Championship.

O’Sullivan has had the week off since posting a solid opening win against Marcus Campbell, but to defend his title successfully the 37-year-old faces the prospect of having to play every day now.

That would mean 10 consecutive days of action, a supreme test of O’Sullivan’s resilience after almost a year out of snooker.

At least the likes of John Higgins, Neil Robertson, Stephen Maguire and Mark Allen have all gone home, victims of stunning upsets.

Carter came through comfortably against Ben Woollaston in his opener, and will be looking to overcome a career record against O’Sullivan that shows he has lost all 12 of their previous matches at major tournaments.

Shaun Murphy resisted an electrified fightback from Graeme Dott last night to win a Crucible thriller that crackled with tension.

Murphy beat his fellow former world champion 13-11 in the second round to earn a quarter-final shot at Judd Trump or Marco Fu.

Dott came back strongly from 6-2 behind to lead 10-9 before Murphy dug deep to clinch the win.

His recovery was admirable, as he could easily have been put out of his stride by the static electricity shocks he was suffering at the table in the morning session.

That forced the players to take an early interval, and bizarrely a tournament official was sent out to spray the carpet with water, in a bid to stop the shocks.

Dott said: “I was getting little ones constantly but the big ones were quite strong.”

Murphy was baffled by what happened in the interval.

“I didn’t understand watering the carpet. I thought water on electricity was bad,” he said.

“I’ve never seen a man out there spraying the carpet. I thought it was weird.”

World number one Mark Selby had early runs of 98 and 103 and sneaked 9-7 ahead of Barry Hawkins, in a match that comes to an end this afternoon, at the same time that O’Sullivan and Carter start.

Trump fired in breaks of 109, 127 and 112 in building a 6-2 lead against Fu in their second-round match. That one was resuming with morning and evening sessions today.

The tournament’s most unlikely star bowed out yesterday, with Thailand’s eccentric world number 70 Dechawat Poomjaeng failing to find the form that saw him topple Stephen Maguire in the first round as he crumbled 13-3 to Michael White.

Welshman White, 21, is a newcomer to snooker’s greatest stage but has a terrific chance to reach the semi-finals now, with Robert Milkins or Ricky Walden awaiting him in the last eight.

Poomjaeng had won just £4,000 in prize money since joining the tour at the start of last season but takes home £16,000 for his Crucible feats.

“I’ll buy my family presents,” he said. “I’m looking for a new house for me but this isn’t enough money. If I got to the final that would have been okay, but now I can’t do it.”

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